The new president of CBS entertainment is doing some damage control regarding the network’s new slate of shows, which skew heavily white and male.
Today, at the CBS upfronts—the annual presentations in which networks introduce their upcoming slate of shows to advertisers—Glen Geller tried to spin their new offerings by focusing on on the network’s decent breakdown of female-led shows.
Of CBS’s eight new programs, six of them star white men. Via The Hollywood Reporter:
“We are the network that has Madam Secretary, 2 Broke Girls and Mom — we have lots of female leads, we have a great balance,” Geller said. “Actually, our new series are more diverse this year than last year.”
I love how people talk about diversity as if simply being “not terrible” is an actual achievement. If last year all of CBS’s shows had white leads and then this year they introduced one show with an Asian man as the star, then yes, it is technically a more diverse lineup than the year before. But it is not necessarily good.
In a year in which CBS lost The Good Wife—which had excellent female characters and a very respectable amount of racial diversity—it is somewhat amusing how Geller is honing in on Madam Secretary, 2 Broke Girls and Mom, which all star white people with a few people of color on the side.
There’s also the matter of 2 Broke Girls consistently being criticized for their pretty racist jokes. I’m not sure I’d pull that one onto the diversity ticket.
The biggest fire that Geller is trying to put out here is the controversy surrounding the network’s decision to not pick up its Nancy Drew-inspired pilot supposedly because it “skewed too female.”
It’s not clear if Geller outright denied those claims, but he did address the subject.
Pressed on why he opted to pass on Drew, Geller said that he had a number of pilots to choose from and the network “chose the best pilot.”
In theory, of course, this is fair. However, the problem is when the supposed “best pilots” all turn out to star white men. White men don’t necessarily make for the best television in 2016. Perhaps I would trust Geller’s explanation more if I had any faith in a white, male network executive seriously valuing diversity.
Luckily for CBS and Geller, they have Doubt to fall back on for their diversity needs, which stars Laverne Cox and Katherine Heigl. In addition, Training Day, based on the 2001 film because Hollywood has no new ideas, stars a black actor.
On Monday, The Atlantic examined a study which showed that casting projects with all-white casts is actually a poor business decision due to the fact that minorities make up a huge percentage of viewing audiences. The study focused on film, but I have to believe that the numbers are similar when it comes to television audiences.
Hopefully, executives like Geller will soon be forced to reckon with the fact that a slate of shows with few women or people of color is not just a display of poor taste, but potentially an equally poor decision for his network’s bottom line.
Images via CBS.